I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time I have heard the above lament from a friend or thought of it myself.
In today’s age of social media, our lives are heavily curated. We are bombarded with a daily slew of photographs and status updates that deceive us into believing the concept of a perfect relationship and how it is easily achieved. And despite knowing better, it is remarkably hard not to compare our relationships to those we see on our social media feeds and consequently feel inadequate.
This myth was debunked at the I Love Children Hot Date with Your Valentine event at the Goodwood Park Hotel on Saturday, February 13, 2016.
The talk – The Marriage Dance – started with a lively Lindy hop dance that left my partner and I impressed. It was not until the entire talk was over, that I realised the dance was a wonderful personification that wholly embodied relationships.
“Relationships and marriages are about making the effort to appreciate your partners and taking the time to practice your dance moves to achieve a choreography that you can treasure for life.” – Mdm Lim and Mr Seah
Mr David Seah and Mdm Lim Kheng Yeow are spouses first, parents second and counsellors third. The roles that they play are listed here in accordance to the importance each has in their lives.
Married for 28 years, sharing the responsibility of three children and equipped with a spirited disposition, they were the ideal couple to share their knowledge on the nuances of relationships.
So, what goes into a successful relationship?
1. Choose your partner. Choose your love. Love your choice.
Delete all of the hipster love quotes that you have bookmarked on your laptop and commit this one to memory.
When Mdm Lim was a young teenager, like many of us girls, she too, pined for her ‘tall, dark and handsome’ prince. Instead, she found herself with Mr Seah who was not the perfect partner but the right one. Despite him being shorter than her, Mr Seah has many other attributes that makes him a worthy life long companion.
Choosing your life partner ultimately leads to the type of love you are determining for yourself and they are both not that different from choosing a dance partner.
To ‘dance’ well, you need to choose the right partner whom you have chemistry with. Also, as it is with dancing, there is no such thing as a perfect partner. Accidents are bound to happen! Thus, take time instead to look for select attributes that will take capture your attention and heart in the long run. After all, take a minute to calculate the number of hours you will be spending with your life partner; assuming that you live till the age of 80 years old, that works out to be about 490 thousand hours!
But you already know that, don’t you?
Well, here is what you might not know.
Learn to love the choice you have made. You might think that this should come naturally, especially if you are already with someone you chose.
Unfortunately, as flawed human beings, we are predisposed to comparing everything that we have and that includes our partners. This tendency to compare also becomes more prevalent when times get tough or when we start taking our partners for granted.
To counter this, Mdm Lim advises couples to consciously make the effort to love our partners for who they are now in the present for that is who they will remain to be in the future. Her suggestion to do this is to try to always look at your partners in the same light you did when you first met them.
“Women marry men hoping they will change. Men marry women hoping they will not.” – Mdm Lim
So women, do not make the mistake of dating someone hoping that he will change in the future. Also, refrain from comparing your partner to others that you see and remind yourself of why you chose him in the first place instead.
2. To succeed, work hard
As with anything worth having in life, successful relationships take hard work. Men especially, Mr Seah affirms, need to work hard before marriage and harder after.
“You cannot put in the hard work only for the wedding and then hit the cruise control button and expect your marriage to turn out fine.” – Mr Seah
Males often act as hunters when they are hunting for their women. They spend copious amounts of time and effort in sweeping women off their feet when they want to win their hearts. However, once they are successful, men tend to take the backseat and dial the romance down. This results in the woman feeling cheated out of what she thought was going to be a romantic relationship.
Women on the other hand, tend to be more loving towards men at the start of a relationship. Then, after a few years, the once endearing woman turns into a chiding machine that men want to escape from.
In this vein, relationships are again similar to dancing.
After all, there are no successful dance partners out there who have not had to take ample time and make the effort to perfect their dance moves as a team.
3. Have fun
To help couples achieve success in their relationships, Mr Seah and Mdm Lim strongly advocate for couples to have fun with each other.
Having fun together makes it easier for couples to communicate. It also prevents couples from taking their partners for granted.
Mdm Lim shared that till today, Mr Seah still surprises her by unexpectedly turning up at her office to have lunch with her. That, she says, always fills her heart with warmth. Unexpected surprises like these help nurture and strengthen the relationship.
Another suggestion that Mdm Lim shared was for couples to do volunteer work together. Giving back to society, she says helps you cherish your partner and the life that you have with them more.
Additionally, for couples who are already married and have children, do not make the mistake of putting your children as your first priority. Remember that it is your spouse who is going to be by your side for the rest of your life and invest your time in them first and in your children next.
And as for those of you who are complaining that you would love to have fun with your partners but simply do not have the time to do so – I hear you! Here is the answer to your problem – plan your fun!
“Aim to have at least one holiday a year with your partner.” – Mr Seah
That’s right. Like dance partners who prioritise and schedule their practice sessions, make having fun with your better half a priority and mark down specific dates in your calendars!
4. The “C” that money can’t buy
This last point is a special one for married couples who are on the fence about having children. Children – the C that money can’t buy are an asset that will help enhance your marriage. This is something that Mdm Lim and Mr Seah can definitely attest to. In fact, their own three children have brought so much light and joy in their lives that they regret not having started earlier.
And even though Mdm Lim initially wanted to start having children at a later age, she now says that on hindsight, it was a good decision to start early for all their children are currently grown up, allowing her to have the option to retire.
It is also crucial to remember that conceiving is an act that increases in difficulty with age and that children require plenty of energy – a characteristic that decreases with age.
So, as Mdm Lim and Mr Seah aptly concluded, “Relationships and marriages are about making the effort to appreciate your partners and taking the time to practice your dance moves to achieve a choreography that you can treasure for life.”
To all the couples out there reading, though Valentine’s Day is over, it may be in your best interest to take stock of your relationship and learn some new ‘dance’ moves.
Here are what some couples took away from the talk:
“We thought the talk was inspiring. It has also increased our confidence of maintaining the love in our relationship after having children.”
- Priya, 26 and Karthik, 28
“We did not expect it to be as informative as it was so that was a pleasant surprise. We also appreciated that it was a real life couple in a successful relationship who was dishing out advice and tips to us. That made it feel a lot more relatable.”
- Stella, 24 and Joshua, 26
Look out for Part 2 of this feature where Mr Seah and Mdm Lim answer intimate questions including:
• Do you agree that a regular sex life is important in a marriage?
• How can we sustain sexual intimacy in a relationship?
• How do you handle finances in a marriage?